EDIT: Very disturbing content warning.
Even though I’ve made a throwaway I’m going to be a bit vague because I still take my ethical duties to former clients seriously and can’t breach privilege or the NDA I signed. This is a story from a long time ago, during the summer after my first year of law school when I was briefly working at a well-known criminal defense firm.
The client whose case I was working was one of several defendants charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Three individuals had committed the murders, and several others had either helped plan it, abducted the victims, came along to watch, or filmed it.
In order to see whether our client was one of the individuals present at the scene, I had to watch multiple videos of the murders. I watched multiple people brutally killed in about the worst possible way you can imagine – they were chopped into pieces while they were alive and had their skulls stomped in. It wasn’t some grainy security footage. It was HD video taken by bystanders just a few feet away. The videos showed someone’s brain squirting out of their head and another person screaming as their hands and arms were hacked off. I also had to listen to the audio to see if our client’s voice could be heard. The screams were bad. The laughter was worse. It has stuck with me for years and years, and I don’t see it going away any time soon.
Thankfully my internship at that firm ended a few weeks later at the end of the summer. I never looked up the verdict from the case, and have no desire to. In our case there was no presumption of innocence – the individuals involved had all taken pleas in hope that the prosecutors wouldn’t seek the death penalty. The only thing that would change was whether our client would get the death penalty (if he was present/filming) or life in prison (if we showed that he played a more minimal role). Working in criminal defense meant setting my judgement for people aside so that they could be afforded the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution. I still did my job to the best of my ability, but I found myself lying awake at night for several weeks in a row, praying to every god that I knew that each of those motherfuckers involved would fry in the electric chair, and that someone would laugh at their screams too.
After that internship, I never returned to criminal law. I now practice civil law where I help people recover for wrongs done to them.